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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                     65
partisans, while the women and children remained to
rough it until the spring. The Sonderkommando burnt
the recalcitrant village to the ground, as they did most
of the villages in this district, which they called a dead
zone.
"My father was the chairman of the collective farm,
village elder, they called him," said Seryonka, and his
words reached Alexei's mind as if they came from the
other side of a wall. "They killed him. And they killed
my big brother. He was a cripple. He had only one arm.
He had his arm crushed on the threshing-floor and had
to have it cut off. Sixteen they killed.... I saw it myself.
The Germans made us all come and look. My father
yelled and swore at them. 'You'll suffer for this, you
scoundrels! You'll weep tears of blood for this!' he told
them/'
Alexei felt a strange sensation sweeping through him
as he listened to this fair-haired boy with the large, sad,
tired eyes. He seemed to be floating in a dense mist.
Unconquerable weariness bound his whole body, which
had been subjected to such superhuman strain. He
was unable to move a finger, and he simply could not
believe that he had been on the move only two hours
before.
"So you live in the forest?" he asked the boy in an
almost inaudible voice, releasing himself with difficulty
from the fetters of sleep.
"Yes, of course! There are three of us now. Fedka,
Mother and I. I had a sister, Nyuska her name was. She
died in the winter. She got all swelled up and died. And
my little brother, he died too. So there are three of us-----
The Germans aren't coming back, are they? What do you
think? Grandfather, my mother's father, that is, he's our
chairman now; he says they won't; he says: 'The dead
don't come back from the graveyard/ But Mother, she's
frightened. She wants to run away. They may come back
again, she says___Look! There's Grandad and Fedka/5
At the edge of the clearing stood red-haired Fedka,
pointing to Alexei; and with him was a tall, round-
shouldered old man in a ragged, light-brown homespun
coat tied at the waist with cord and wearing a high,
German officer's peaked cap.
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